Observations from Patriots practice

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Observations from the Patriots’ organized team activity today:

Wes Welker’s presence surprising. Welker ran through agility drills (e.g. stepping over bags) and caught passes while running at three-quarters speed, before leaving the practice to work in the Dana-Farber Field House. At one point while on the practice fields, he ran about 10 yards, stopped abruptly, and turned to catch a pass from Tom Brady. This is a promising sign for the Patriots when it comes to Welker’s recovery. Welker wore a brace over his left knee.

Nick Kaczur at left guard. With two-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins not present for the voluntary session, veteran tackle Nick Kaczur was inserted at his spot at left guard. Second-year man Sebastian Vollmer took reps at right tackle, with Matt Light remaining at left tackle.

Fred Taylor struggles catching the ball. The veteran running back had at least four drops in passing drills, clearly looking rusty. He spoke after practice about taking offense to his performance, saying he’s always working toward improvement in that area.

Tom Brady getting in his work. Watching Brady work his craft is a treat. He’s vocal, intense, and treats every snap like it’s a game. At one point, after a completion to rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez in 7 on 7 work, he was pumped. He head-butted Torry Holt, who seemed stunned at the response. Holt showed up a few times on routes over the middle in passing drills against the defense.

Long way to go for Shawn Crable. When the top offense and top defense were on separate fields, it was notable that third-year outside linebacker Shawn Crable was running with the scout defense. One could view that as a sign that he has a long way to go to earn a roster spot.

Thomas Williams works at fullback. The Patriots don’t have a traditional fullback on the roster, and could fill that role with a hybrid running back such as Sammy Morris or BenJarvus Green-Ellis, or even use an offensive lineman in a power package. Another option came to light today with second-year linebacker Thomas Williams taking some reps at lead-blocking fullback.

Younger players get extra work. At the end of practice, the more experienced players loosened up on one field, while the youngsters stayed on to get in their work. Linebacker Thomas Williams intercepted quarterback Zac Robinson in that drill. After the entire practice ended, offensive tackle Thomas Welch stayed to work on short snapping, with Robinson the holder.

Media crowd overflowing again. At one point, there were 38 media members in attendance covering today’s OTA.